Naxiely Lopez-Puente

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Naxiely Lopez-Puente covers Hidalgo County and Edinburg for The Monitor. You can contact her at nlopez@themonitor.com or (956) 683-4434.

McAllen mayor speaks all things COVID-19

The mayor here answered a number of questions regarding COVID-19 in a virtual meeting with members of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. During the 40-minute Zoom meeting, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling touched on a number of issues, ranging from code enforcement to parks to immigration and revenue, as chamber members submitted questions via a chat feature. Darling began the meeting by reiterating what nearly every elected official in the country has been saying for weeks now: stay home and limit your exposure. Read the full story at themonitor.com

County looks to boost enforcement of stay-home orders

Hidalgo County officials are scrambling to find ways to keep residents at home as they warn of a possible onslaught of COVID-19 cases. Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said he is concerned not enough people are following a shelter-at-home order he issued last week to combat the pandemic. “We know there is a tsunami coming,” Cortez said in a news release Tuesday. “It hasn’t hit us yet. If there is anything we can do to mitigate this, it is stronger enforcement on the orders.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Hidalgo County weighs possible skywalk for courthouse project

Hidalgo County commissioners are debating whether to construct a skywalk to connect the new courthouse to another county-owned building across the street. The adjacent building, 100 E. Cano, is located on the southeast side of the courthouse square and is currently home to commissioners court, the county judge’s office, the district attorney's office and the 13th Court of Appeals, among other offices. However, when the new courthouse opens, the appellate court will reportedly move into the new facility and the DA’s office will remain there and take over the entire building, with the exception of the chamber where commissioners meet. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Local governing entities weigh efforts to protect employees

Local government entities are trying to figure out how to best protect their employees from the novel coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases in Hidalgo County continues to rise. On Tuesday morning, Hidalgo County officials voted unanimously to suspend normal operations for about a month beginning Monday. At about the same time, McAllen announced a majority of its city buildings would be closed to walk-in traffic to protect the community, residents and staff. A few hours later, the county announced three additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 5. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

City, schools partner for Wi-Fi hotspots across McAllen

The city and school district partnered to deploy 20 free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city to help residents stay connected despite physical distancing. City officials announced the partnership via a news release Friday as McAllen Independent School District and others across the nation scramble to teach students from afar given the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. “In our response to COVID-19, we are requiring children remain at home as the learning continues,” McAllen schools superintendent J. A. Gonzalez said. “Many of our families will benefit from access to a hotspot so they can stay in communication with their teacher, turn in work and continue with their education.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

15 cases test negative in Hidalgo County, at least 33 still pending

At least 48 tests for the novel coronavirus have been sent out in Hidalgo County, and 15 have come back negative, county spokesman Carlos Sanchez said Thursday afternoon. There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hidalgo County, Sanchez said. The other 33 tests are still pending results. Those figures, however, are only for tests that have been sent to public testing labs in Harlingen and Austin, he added. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

La Plaza, RGV Premium Outlets close temporarily

La Plaza Mall in McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes, two of the largest shopping destinations in South Texas, shut their doors Tuesday, cutting off a much-needed revenue stream for their respective cities. Simon Property Group, which owns nearly 200 shopping centers in the United States, announced Wednesday it was temporarily closing all of its domestic properties to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus until March 29. David Simon, the CEO, president and chairman of the group, said in a news release Wednesday the decision was made after “extensive discussions with federal, state and local officials.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Edinburg’s new city manager: All hands on deck

The new city manager’s vision remains the same, but his priorities have shifted as he prepares to take on a new role amid a national crisis. Ron Garza, former executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, will officially begin working next week, but he’s already very much involved, he said Tuesday. Garza has been in daily conference calls with interim City Manager Richard Hinojosa, Hidalgo County officials and the rest of the city’s leadership team as they work their way through the rapidly-evolving coronavirus pandemic. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

RGV hospitals adopt new visitor screenings, guidelines

Rio Grande Valley hospitals are creating new rules for patients and visitors as they brace for what’s being considered an inevitable COVID-19 confirmation. And while they might limit interactions between patients and their loved ones, medical officials say they are necessary in order to stymie the pandemic. South Texas Health System — which operates five acute hospitals and one behavioral one — was among the first to screen visitors last week, with long lines forming outside McAllen Medical Center as staff asked each visitor about their health and recent travels. “We, as hospital administrators and the larger team at McAllen Medical Center, apologize for the waiting out front for the change in the visitation policy,” Chief Operating Officer Doug Colburn said Monday. “Sorry for the wait, but we appreciate people being patient as they wait to see their loved one in the hospital." Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen weighs circus ban petition

City commissioners are considering how to best deal with a petition to ban the Carson & Barnes Circus from coming back to the city. Edinburg resident Jaqueline Reed started the Change.org petition a month ago, urging residents to consider the treatment of animals in the circuit after the circus announced it would be making stops throughout the Rio Grande Valley throughout February. “ Carson & Barnes has been cited for over 100 violations by the federal Animal Welfare Act, including but not limited to, failing to provide animals with basic necessities, like veterinary care, shelter and clean water,” Reed wrote. “There is video footage of the inadequate care facilities, and of trainers violently using bullhooks (resembling a fire poker) and electric prods. Read the full story at themonitor.com